From Dunedin: The Top 11 Religiously Themed Films of the Decade

Eric Repphun of the Dunedin School offers his pick list of The Top 11 Religiously Themed Films of the Decade, in no particular order, as follows:

1. Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
2. Children of Men (Afonso Cuaron, 2006)
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
4. Heaven (Tom Tykwer, 2002)
5. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
6. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
7. Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 2006)
8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk, 2003)
9. The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005)
10. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
11. The Bothersome Man (Jens Lien, 2006)

I’ve seen seven of these (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10) and appreciate the reason for The Dark Knight‘s inclusion: “When the butler Alfred tells Bruce Wayne, Batman’s playboy alter-ego, that some men – the Joker in this case – just want to watch the world burn, he nails the character of religiously-motivated violence in the contemporary world, which is more performative and symbolic than strategic or tactical.” I’m also very pleased to see There Will Be Blood making the cut. The narrative and moral scope of this film is amazing, involving the power of charisma, hypocrisy, exploitation (of land and children), and alienation from society. I didn’t much care for Spirited Away, but then animation seldom impresses me.

Repphun then singles out what he considers the worst religious movie of the decade:

The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)

Readers know I admire this film, even if I’m light-years away from Gibson’s world-view, and in fact it’s one of my favorite three Jesus-films of all time — the others being Pasolini’s Gospel According to St. Matthew (praised in passing by Repphun) and Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal.

On whole it’s a nice list, and I’ll have to add the four I haven’t seen to my Netflix queue.

UPDATE: Mark Goodacre also has things to say about Repphun’s aversion to The Passion of the Christ.

UPDATE (II): Repphun inspired me to do my own pick list, on which three of his choices appear.

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The Biblical Studies Carnivals

Doug Chaplin asks us to reconsider our approach to the Biblical Studies Carnivals. He suggests two alternatives to what we’ve been doing for the last four years: have the host rely entirely on (mainly self-)nominations that are sent in, or have the host do a general theme post with others commenting (Doug seems fond of the latter idea).

I agree with Tyler Williams that anything close to the latter option means we’re not talking carnivals anymore, so in my view it should be discarded. But I don’t necessarily agree with Tyler that relying on submissions alone “is the only real option”, though one could follow this procedure (and I’d be surprised if some carnival hosts haven’t already). For myself, I enjoy combing through blogs and feeds as much as (if not more than) relying on what’s simply handed to me as a host. Relying on submissions means that quality posts could easily be missed simply because no one takes the trouble to nominate them. Yes, it’s more work for the host, but if that’s a concern, you shouldn’t be signing up to do a carnival more than once a year (maybe even every two years). I suppose that’s easy for me to say, since I’ve only done one carnival so far…

Nor do I like the idea of increasing the frequency of the carnivals. If anything, I would have suggested going in the opposite direction (bi-monthly or quarterly), though I think monthly carnivals are just fine.

In other words, I like the carnivals as they now stand, as both a (monthly) reader and (one-time) host.

The Historical and Resurrected Wrong

In a recent post, The Biblioblog Top-50 vs. N.T. Wrong, Mark Goodacre notes the resurrected Wrong’s (The Bibliloblog Top-50’s) “failure to maintain the kind of subversive, counter-cultural, liberal persona” of his first incarnation. He’s “less fun” too. Is there something similar here to the historical vs. the resurrected Jesus? Perhaps even intended on the Kiwi’s part?

I’m glad to know Crossley’s SBL paper was well received. The nine-month phenomenon of N.T. Wrong merits the attention given by James. I find myself missing Wrong more and more each month, and oddly enough, having increased difficulty making the connection between the Biblloblog Top-50 and the first incarnation. But I suppose that’s as it should be.

"Obscene" Speech in the Deutero-Pauline Letters

I’m looking forward to reading The Ethics of Obscene Speech in Early Christianity and Its Environment, by Jeremy Hultin, which I just reserved through interlibrary loan. In the meantime I see that Peter Orr has done a trio of blogposts, Obscene Speech in Paul (I), (II), (III), on the prohibitions against foul language in Colossians and Ephesians. According to Orr’s presentation of Hultin, our English translations fuel misleading perceptions of what the deutero-Paulinists condemn. Here’s how the ESV and NRSV, for instance, translate Col 3:8, 4:6:

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk [aischrologia] from your mouth… Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (ESV)

“But now you must get rid of all such things — anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language [aischrologia] from your mouth…Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (NRSV)

Here’s how they translate Eph 5:3-4:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking [eutrapelia], which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (ESV)

“But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk [eutrapelia]; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.” (NRSV)

In the case of Colossians, the NRSV gets it better, because, according to Hultin, aischrologia does not have any sexual reference as in our English cussing. It means abusive and unkind speech. The salt reference, moreover, is lost on many of us, because it was often a synonym for humor or wit in antiquity. The author of Colossians is thus advocating the use of humor to win people to the gospel, and only condemning abusive speech (which is on par with anger, wrath, malice, and slander, the other vices condemned) — not necessarily sexually obscene speech — in such a context.

In the case of Ephesians, neither translation is impressive, because each renders eutrapelia negatively (“crude joking”, or “vulgar talk”). According to Hultin, eutrapelia was understood positively in antiquity. It was a witty form of speech that doctors often used to put patients at ease, as did lawyers with clients, and commanders with their soldiers. The question then becomes why the author of Ephesians condemns something so valuable.

Orr puts the question this way: Why is humor and wit commanded in Colossians but condemned in Ephesians? An obvious answer (for me) is that we’re dealing with two different authors and there’s no reason to expect consistency between the deutero-Paulinists. But we still have to wonder why the author of Ephesians comes down hard on something esteemed so highly. Orr thinks the way to make sense of it is by connecting verses 3 and 4, meaning that “evil things” shouldn’t appear in speech, “even through the otherwise good speech-form of wit”. If that’s true, our English translations of eutrapelia may not be too far off the mark.

I’ll ponder this more when I get to read Hultin’s book.

UPDATE: I have read and reviewed the book. Orr is on the wrong track in trying to reconcile the texts the way he does. The author of Ephesians condemns not only obscene language, but even innocent humor in view of a sanctified community.